Council provisionally opts out of Three Waters Reform Programme

Published on 17 August 2021

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The Far North District Council has voted to provisionally opt out of the Three Waters Reform Programme.

The Council voted unanimously in August 2020 to join the initial phase of the reform programme in return for a share of $28 million for three waters infrastructure in Northland. Last Thursday [12 August], the Mayor and councillors voted to provisionally opt out of the programme until the Council has sufficient information to make an informed decision. Councillors Rachel Smith, Kelly Stratford and Moko Tepania voted against opting out. 

The Mayor and councillors also voted unanimously to:

  • Ask Council staff to report back to them in November after analysing the Government’s proposed package of reforms
  • Work with other Northland councils to find a water entity and governance structure that suits the region
  • Gauge community support for the Government’s reform proposal and, if necessary, hold a referendum on the issue.

Mayor Carter says it is uncertain that the Far North would be better off under the Government’s reform proposal. “There are still a lot of unknowns at this stage. It is not certain that communities will have meaningful control over the proposed multi-regional three waters entities or that a future government won’t privatise three waters services.”

The financial benefits the Government has forecast for the Far North are also questionable, given that they are based on all New Zealand councils participating in the programme. “Whangārei District Council voted in June to provisionally opt out of the programme and other councils have signalled that they may do the same.”

The decision doesn’t close the door for the Council to rejoin the programme. The Council will continue to do due diligence on the Government’s proposal, keep talking to neighbouring councils and seek feedback from the community. “There will be winners and losers when the programme is finalised. We need to be sure that the Far North is not worse off.”